Child Support and Social Security Benefits
SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME (SSI)
SSI is a government benefit paid to the elderly and disabled. It is for people who have not earned enough in the past to get Social Security Disability (SSD). SSI pays a set monthly amount. This amount is $674 per month in 2009.
If a parent's only income is SSI, that parent cannot be forced to pay child support. Some courts may still enter a child support order, but will not enforce that order. The Child Support Guidelines specifically say that SSI is not counted as income on the child support worksheet. By definition, someone who is getting SSI is unable to work because to be eligible for SSI you must be unable to work.
If you are the parent getting SSI, you should tell the court that your only income is SSI and you are unable to pay child support. You should get a statement from the Social Security Administration that you receive SSI, and give this statement to the court. If you have already been ordered to pay child support and then you began receiving SSI, you can ask the court to change your child support order.
SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY (SSD)
SSD is also a social security benefit paid to the elderly and disabled. The amount of SSD a person gets is based on how much the person has earned in the past. The more work history you have, the more SSD you can receive.
A parent getting SSD can still be ordered to pay child support. Because SSD is based upon work history and how much you have earned in the past, SSD is considered income. According to the Child Support Guidelines, SSD is counted as income on the child support worksheet.
When a parent is getting SSD, the dependent children of that parent may be able to get SSD dependent benefits directly from the Social Security Administration based upon the parent's benefits. The parent getting SSD should apply for dependent benefits on behalf of the children. The amount the children get depends on the parent's work history.
Sometimes a court will count the benefits the child gets from the Social Security Administration as payment of the child support obligation. Sometimes the court will also order the non-custodial parent to pay some child support in addition to the amount the child receives directly from the Social Security Administration. Usually, the parent will be ordered to pay additional money only if the amount the children get directly from the Social Security Administration is less than the amount the child support worksheet says should be paid.
Combination of SSD and SSI
Sometimes if a person has earned some money in the past but not too much money, the person will get some SSD and then enough SSI to bring that person to the minimum SSI level of payment. This person will thus be getting only the minimum amount of monthly benefits (the SSI level). If you are getting a combination of SSI and SSD, you can argue that you are like the parent who gets only SSI, and thus should not be ordered to pay child support. If you are supposed to be paying child support and you are receiving a combination of SSD and SSI, you should explain this to the court. You should ask the court not to make you pay child support because you are getting only as much as a person on SSI gets.
Reviewed August 2009